The Phone Home

David and Nancy Swearingen met and married in central Florida. In 1980, three years after their marriage, they moved to the Springfield neighborhood in Jacksonville and purchased this circa 1908 two-story Victorian home. David found work as an in-house locksmith with Southern Bell. Springfield was one of the two Jacksonville neighborhoods that appealed to them (the other was the already pricey Riverside). The couple joined the Springfield Community on Patrol (SCOP), a police/citizen joint effort to improve the safety of the neighborhood.

Their son, William, was born in 1984 and would later attend kindergarten at Mattie V. Rutherford in its last year as an elementary school. Sadly, after a battle with cancer, Nancy Swearingen passed away in 1991. Even while working at Southern Bell, David continued his independent locksmithing business. After he was laid off, he increased his focus on the masterkeying side of things, designing systems for several large organizations in North Florida; most notably the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and the Methodist Hospital.

The Phone Home
An early letterhead belonging to David Swearingen
The Phone Home
The Springfield home in the late 1980s, Nancy on the porch and William by the fence.

Once the locksmithing work slowed, David contracted with the City of Jacksonville to board up vacant houses (mostly in the Springfield area). He also operated vending machines and arcade games across the city, including owning and managing the arcade at Edward Waters College. In his later years, David Swearingen founded the Florida Public Telephone Company, which operated the majority of the payphones in Jacksonville for many years. Similar to his locksmithing business, he operated the payphone company from his Springfield residence.

The Phone Home
David & William Swearingen in the early 1990s

William’s assistance in these businesses increased as he grew up, from supervising lock projects as an infant (according to his nametag from the Methodist Hospital project) to managing the (literal) nuts and bolts of boarding up houses as a child and teenager, to handling the I.T. operations for the payphone company as a young adult. In 2009, the Florida Public Telephone Company operated about 300 payphones across Jacksonville including two former BellSouth booths still standing on Blount Island, although the public could not access the protected port to use them. Sadly, David Swearingen lost his battle with COVID-19 in 2020. William inherited the Springfield home and recently listed the property for sale. In September 2021, William invited me to Springfield to see his father’s abandoned Victorian home. The Springfield property was sold in November 2022.

The Phone Home
The Phone Home
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The Phone Home

In July 2022, I returned to the Springfield property after it had been cleaned out.

The Phone Home
The Phone Home
The Phone Home
The Phone Home
The Phone Home
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The Phone Home
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The Phone Home
The Phone Home
The Phone Home
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The Phone Home
The Phone Home
The Phone Home

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You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. For more abandoned places from Jacksonville and North Florida, check out my book Abandoned North Florida. If you would like to receive the Abandoned Southeast blog in your email, you can sign up below or on the main page.

7 comments

  1. Pretty large home in need of some serious TLC and updating. I take it William moved out of the home once he became an adult. I’m sure the clean out was no easy task. But the home is definitely savable with some major renovations which is mostly cosmetic. Not a bad looking home to say the least. I love the wood grain designs as well as the staircase and would definitely keep all the doors. I hope whoever decides to buy the home will restore it to its original glory and not let it go into rot/decay/ruin. It could truly be a fine home to own with the right family who cares about it. Thank you so much for sharing. P.S: I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of William’s parents, may the rest in peace.

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